Paleo Lasagna Recipe and Other Butternut Squash Ideas

I recently posted some of my favorite Paleo recipes, and a little bit about why my husband and I follow the Paleo diet. I promised to share a little more about how to cook some of those recipes, so I am going to start with one that seems to be popular: Butternut Squash Lasagna.

The recipe is from a great website called Health Bent that we’ve referred to a lot during our Paleo journey. The squash gives it a sweetness that makes it a little different from tradition lasagna, but personally I think it is more flavorful and interesting. Not to mention you can feel good about eating your vegetables, and no pasta, in your serving of lasagna!

Let’s start with the sauce. She uses canned tomatoes and roasted red peppers. It’s delicious, but to keep it simple, I sometimes just stick with the tomatoes. That way it doesn’t have to be puréed.

For the meat, you can use ground beef like the recipe says, but Italian sausage also tastes great. I like to brown the meat with garlic, onions and sometimes bell peppers, then throw in the tomato sauce and some salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning, and let it simmer while I cut up the squash.

There are some options when it comes to the squash too. We also love This Recipe from Skinny Taste that uses zucchini. I’ve even used eggplant so it’s almost like a parmigiana dish. Basically if it sounds good and you can cut it into lasagna-noodle-ish slices, it will probably work! Just remember that some squashes, like zucchini, may need to be salted and drained so you don’t end up with excess water in your lasagna.

I usually only do a couple layers, and I do add mozzarella cheese. We try to limit dairy but haven’t cut it out completely, and it wouldn’t seem like lasagna without it! But it’s totally optional. Other than that just bake as directed, and if it starts to brown too fast, cover the top with foil. Ours is a little burned here but still tasty!

20140227-154625.jpg

A friend asked if you can roast the butternut squash seeds like pumpkin seeds. So of course I consulted Pinterest and it turns out you can! Here is a Recipe. I just baked mine with grape seed oil, sea salt, and cinnamon, and they tasted great! I’ll probably never throw them out again.

20140227-154709.jpg

Also, in case you have some squash left over, I’m experimenting with puréeing it and using it in place of pumpkin in paleo muffins. The first batch was a little soggy but I’ll let you know if I get it right!

Edit: figured out those muffins! The important thing is to drain the squash after you purée it. I used a coffee filter. These may or may not be strictly paleo depending on what you use, but they’re full of vegetables and healthy fats, they’re moist, and they taste pretty good.

Recipe:
1 cup butternut squash
1 cup almond flour, almond butter, or ground up nuts
1/4 cup tapioca flour or other starch
2 eggs
1/4-1/2 cup sweetener of choice
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients together, pour into muffin tins, and bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Makes 2 dozen mini muffins (not sure how many regular muffins cause I can’t find my favorite muffin pan!)

20140303-152751.jpg

Do you have an idea for Paleo lasagna? Or a favorite way to cook squash?

On Being an Introvert

Joe and I went on a ski trip last weekend in Virginia with our church group. Besides my lack of ability to ski, I am an extremely introverted person who’s dealing with mysterious health issues, so it hasn’t been easy for me to get out and do things. But he really wanted me to go, so he arranged for us to have our own cabin and plenty of relax time in between our activities. It made me feel all high-maintenance and obnoxious, but I needed it.

Despite my usual “curse” of getting my period and being miserable every single time I travel, I went shopping with my girlfriends and joined the group for dinner and game night. In between, I napped and watched Netflix in our cabin by myself, and Joe and I spent Valentine’s day painting pottery at a local studio and having dinner together. I even found time to use the craft supplies I packed. And for the first time in a while, I actually enjoyed a group trip.

I think it would be wrong to miss the fact that God provided for me for the sake of building relationships. But I am also starting to learn some things about living life as an introvert.

1. We are not antisocial. There’s plenty of material out there about what it means to be an introvert or an extrovert, and I can only speak for myself, but I care about people and I need friends just like anybody else. I just have to choose carefully how to spend my energy, because people wear me out. And then I have to “recharge” with alone time.

2. It’s okay to not always be “flexible.” Sometimes you need to be flexible for someone else, and sometimes you need them to be flexible for you. Not everyone will understand how you operate, but if they care enough, they’ll keep trying.

3. Accepting yourself is important. I have this problem with always thinking people are judging me. It’s true, people judge what they don’t understand. But most of the time I’m just judging myself in somebody else’s voice. Every time I say something and people don’t respond how I expected. Every time I think I’m letting someone down. Pretty soon I feel like everyone would be a lot happier if I were someone else. But God made me to be me, and if I’m not happy with that, how can I expect anyone else to be?

4. Put yourself out there. I’m not telling you to change your personality. If you’re like me, being bold is not your strong suit. But I’m getting to a point in life where I don’t care who knows that I sleep from 4am to at least noon because of my medication, or because I’m a crazy artist, or because I watch too much Netflix. Or that I have to become a temporary hermit after a social function. And it is uncomfortable but liberating. This goes with accepting yourself. Give people a chance to know you, and they might like you more than you think.

5. Find a balance. Everyone needs solitude, and everyone needs community. How much of each one? That depends on the person. Know your needs and plan your time accordingly. And don’t feel bad. And don’t feel like everything has to happen right now. The people who care will still be there when you’re ready to give them the best of yourself and not the burned-out leftovers of your social energy.

I’m still a little exhausted from the trip (and the seasonal allergies that I always underestimate!) but this time I can say that it was worth it. I’m glad I made the effort, and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity. After I hide out for a while with my wonderful new art supplies (yay tax returns and yay craft store sales).

And with that…Introverts UNITE! Individually!

20140221-152441.jpg

Top 10 Paleo Recipes (and Why Paleo?)

I’ve been experimenting with Paleo cooking for about 3 years, since I got married. Why? Basically my boyfriend (now husband) Joe got bored in Iraq, learned a bunch of stuff about nutrition, and insists that grains are bad for you. In his own words, he’s liable to gain 10 pounds looking at a piece of cake, but he came back from that deployment in really good shape. Partly from working out, a lot, but partly from changing his diet.

I’ve never had that problem, and I love bread, but I also love my husband. It’s a lot easier to cook the same thing for both of us, and I’m sure it’s not hurting me to eat more protein and less carbs. And who knew some fats are good for you? If you tell me I can eat bacon, I am not going to argue.

I’m pretty good at learning new things, but I grew up semi-vegetarian, so cooking red meat was new to me, not to mention replacing the starches in our meals. For a while we ate nothing but meat and vegetables for dinner and I hated it. Then I tried a bunch of weird, complicated recipes that I also got tired of. Now we are starting to find a balance. Paleo cooking can be simple and also taste good!

We are not extreme about much in life, so not all our meals are 100% Paleo. We just go for mostly grain-free with minimal dairy, and try to avoid processed foods. We definitely have our cheat days, and my love of baking cookies doesn’t help! But guess what? There are Paleo desserts too!

Anyway, some friends have been asking about the Paleo recipes I use, so I’m going to start by sharing links to a few of my favorites, and in my next few posts I’ll try to go into a little more detail on some of them, since I like to tweak recipes as I go. So here are 10* of my favorites!

Breakfast:

Simple Banana Pancakes Can also do apple or pumpkin

Lunch:

Tuna-Salad-Stuffed Avocado

Dinners:

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Spaghetti Squash Bake I added meat

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

Turkey Crockpot Chili

Mini Meatloaves

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Snack:

Raw Energy Bars

Desserts:

Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Chocolate Mug Cake Can you believe this is microwaveable?!

Bonus:

Lettuce Wrap Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries More an idea than a recipe, but simple & delicious! Here’s my version:

20140221-132924.jpg

I might have to do another post for regular recipes that can be modified to Paleo. But hopefully these are some good ones to start with! Let me know what sounds good in the comments, and I’ll start there with my more detailed posts.

Thanks for reading and have fun!

*now 11 cause I almost forgot the awesome pancakes!